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Will you avoid falling for these scams?
Thieves will always use any reason they can to advance their scheming ways. Not surprising, the holidays are a favorite because crooks can prey on the generosity and camaraderie of good guys and gals.
This month, we illustrate some common holiday scams perpetrated by the Grinch-like.
review the scams HERE
Is "safe online shopping" an oxymoron?
So easy and convenient, online shopping (like most anything today) can include some dangerous risks. However, there are a few important steps that can be taken to shop a bit more securely.
Here, we share five simple ways to shop online safely during the holiday season and beyond.
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What You Are Saying:
"Speaking with the Investigator definitely decreased my feelings of being a 'victim' and restored my confidence that there is a group of people working on my behalf to reduce the impact of such an event." - Member in CO
"[The Investigator] that helped me clarify a few questions and was an all-star. He took time to listen to my issues and genuinely cared about my situation. There aren't many people like this in the world and he went beyond job expectations and just listened to the things that I had to say. Once again I'd like to give thanks for all the help! Thanks again." - Member in CO
"I love that help with Identity theft is just a phone call away and that there are steps to take to protect me moving forward!" - Member in CA
"I was extremely nervous when I thought my identity was stolen but when I called LegalShield I instantly was put at ease, the fraud department was very polite and professional. I am very happy with the service I received and am no longer worried. Thank you." - Member in CA
7 Legal Tips for Auto Financing
Chances are, if you are buying a car you will need an auto loan. While there are many options for auto financing, it is extremely important to understand what you are getting into before you agree to finance terms. Your LegalShield provider law firm is available to help answer questions and review loan terms prior to signing.
Determine your budget before selecting a vehicle or applying for financing. Buying a vehicle you cannot afford may have serious financial consequences. Review your monthly bills and determine what
you can safely afford. Anticipate the unexpected, such as job loss or a major home repair; if something out of the ordinary occurs make sure you will still have the funds to cover your car
Understand the difference between leasing and purchasing. Leasing a car is essentially renting the vehicle from the leasing company. You are responsible for damage to the vehicle, are limited to a certain number of miles per year and other possible restrictions. Exceeding your allowed miles or causing excessive wear and tear may incur additional fees. After the lease period is complete the vehicle is returned to the dealership. Purchasing a vehicle means that once you have made the final monthly payment the vehicle is yours to keep.
Save for a down payment. Making a down payment will generally lower your monthly payment and the total amount of interest you pay on your loan.
Check your credit score before applying for a loan. An error on your credit report can increase your interest rate or cause you to be denied for a loan. If you need assistance resolving an error on your credit report, contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
Shop around for the best possible loan. You do not need to receive financing through the dealer; however, dealer rates may be more competitive, offering very low interest rates or cash back at signing. A bank or credit union may also offer favorable interest rates and terms. It may help to receive pre-approval for a loan before you begin shopping for a vehicle.
Know the consequences of defaulting on your loan. Some loans allow the creditor to begin repossession after only one late payment. It is vital to understand the terms and penalties associated with an auto loan default. If your vehicle is repossessed and sold at auction, but does not generate enough to cover the remainder of the loan, you will be responsible for the balance. Some loans also include fees for loan termination, as well as the administrative and legal fees associated with the repossession.
Read the fine print. The terms of an auto lease or loan are written in legal terminology and may be difficult for a non-lawyer to understand. If you need assistance reviewing the terms of your financing, contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
Contact Us: 1-800-654-7757 (US) or 1-800-440-8857 (Canada)
5 Ways to Prepare for an Emergency
No matter where you live it is important to prepare for both natural and man-made disasters. Advanced preparation may help spare you some of the challenges that come during a disaster and in the aftermath. If you have questions or need assistance recovering from a disaster call your LegalShield provider law firm.
Develop a basic disaster plan for your family. In many emergency situations cell phone networks become overloaded and unreliable. Make a plan for where your family should meet in the event of an
emergency. Find out where the nearest shelter is located. Know your local evacuation routes. If your children are at school, who will pick them up? Review the plan with your family each year. Having
a basic understanding of what you need to do during an emergency will help avoid miscommunication and anxiety. U.S. residents can learn more at www.ready.gov. Canadians can view additional resources
Review your insurance policies to make sure you have the best coverage you can afford. Be sure that your homeowners insurance will cover the actual loss of your home and your personal property. If you rent a home or apartment, make sure you have adequate renters insurance. Your landlord’s insurance will not cover damage to your personal property. It is important to understand the exclusions and potential limitations of an insurance policy. Your LegalShield provider law firm can review any new policies before you sign them.
Develop an emergency contact list. Your list should include family doctors, utility companies, insurance carriers and your LegalShield provider law firm. If possible, keep a hard copy of the list in another location where it can be retrieved if your home is inaccessible. Make sure your family knows where to find the list in an emergency.
Keep your most critical documents in a safe deposit box or other secure place where they can be retrieved when they are needed. Critical documents include your will, advance medical directive or living will, insurance policies, military discharge and other important papers. It may also be helpful to keep copies of these documents in an alternate location in the event the bank is inaccessible in the aftermath of a disaster. If you do not have a will, advance medical directive or living will, contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
Know what to do after a disaster. Take photographs of damaged property and retain all documents, including receipts that pertain to your recovery. Contact your insurance company to place a claim as soon as you are able. Write down the name of anyone you speak with and any claim numbers you are given. In addition to insurance, there are many government and non-government programs designed to assist families with disaster recovery. The process of applying for disaster relief can sometimes be confusing. If you need any assistance in the aftermath of a disaster contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
Contact Us: 1-800-654-7757 (US) or 1-800-440-8857 (Canada)
9 Things You MUST Know About
As the cost of higher education continues to rise many students require financial assistance to pay for school. For many students a significant portion of their financial aid consists of student loans. It is vital that students and potential co-borrowers understand the different types of loans available to them, the resources available in the event of a hardship and the potential consequences of default. If you have questions or need assistance reviewing loan documents call your LegalShield provider law firm.
Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need. While you are in school the federal government pays your loan’s interest. Therefore, you do not accrue any interest before entering the
repayment period. This will save you a great deal of money over the life of the loan.
Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest as soon as the loan is disbursed. If the interest is not paid, it will be added to the loan’s principal. You will pay interest on the principal of the loan, as well as any interest that has already been added to the balance of the loan. This capitalized interest means you will pay a significantly higher cost over the life of an unsubsidized loan.
Credit cards are readily available to college students and are widely used to pay for housing, books and living expenses. The interest rates on credit cards are far higher than those on both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. In addition, you are required to make monthly payments. Failure to make payments on credit cards will lead to a poor credit score and may affect your ability to obtain additional credit or even find a job.
Many student loans offer a grace period before regular payments must be made. Make sure you know the grace period duration for your loan so you are ready when your first payment is due. If you are unable to make your payment when it is due contact your lender.
Default, the failure to make payment on student loans, may have serious consequences. If you default on your loan, your remaining balance and interest may become due in full and you may lose access to modified repayment plans. Also, additional fees and penalties may be added to your loan, your credit score and history may be damaged, your wages may be garnished and your tax refunds may be withheld. Your lender will also seek to collect, using all of the above methods, from your co-borrower.
Avoid default by contacting your lender if you are unable to make your scheduled loan payments. It may be possible to alter your payment due date or the structure of your repayment plan to better accommodate your budget. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for deferment or forbearance. Canadians have several options for repayment assistance and may learn more by visiting the canlearn.ca website.
Discounts may be available if you set up auto-payment for your account. Some lenders offer reduced interest rates when you develop a history of timely repayment. If you work in social services or healthcare fields you may also be eligible for student loan assistance. Contact your lender to learn more.
Consolidation may benefit you. Consolidating loans with one lender allows you to make one monthly payment. It may also be possible to lock in a lower interest rate with a consolidated loan. Consolidating your student loans may make you ineligible for some repayment assistance programs.
To learn more about student loans you may download a booklet from the U.S. Department of Education. Canadians can learn more by visiting www.canlearn.ca.
6 Legal Tips for Selecting the
LegalShield provider law firms frequently assist members involved in disputes with contractors. For every unprofessional contractor, there are many contractors who do great work and communicate well with their clients. The best way to avoid disputes is to pick the best contractor for the job. These tips may help you make the right choice for your next repair or home improvement project. If you need assistance dealing with a contractor, call your LegalShield provider law firm.
Avoid taking the lowest bid without considering other important factors. Receiving only one bid for an expensive project or only considering the lowest bid, is asking for trouble. Some contractors
will underbid a project so you will hire them and bypass contractors with more realistic bids. A bid should breakdown the cost for materials, labor, fees for licenses or permits as well as the
contractor’s profit margin.
Check the contractor’s references. Request the names and phone numbers of the owners of the last three projects completed by the contractor, then contact the owners and ask them about their experience with the contractor. If possible, visit at least one of the projects and closely inspect the detail work on the job. It may be helpful to visit a current worksite to see how the contractor works and how careful they are with the homeowner’s property. A chaotic and disorganized worksite is a major red flag.
Confirm the contractor is licensed and insured. Make sure the license authorizes the contractor to perform the specific work you are hiring them to perform. You should also ask to see a copy of his or her insurance policy and bond.
Ask for a detailed written estimate of the cost and scope of the work before agreeing to anything. Always incorporate the estimate into a concise, clearly worded agreement describing the work to be performed and the price. It should include a time frame for the work to be completed and a “hold back” provision that permits you to withhold a portion of the final payment until the work is completed and all governmental inspections are passed. You and the contractor should both sign the agreement.
For large projects or renovations utilize a payment schedule. Contractors who request a large sum upfront to begin work may have financial difficulties or be apprehensive about the quality of their own work. A payment schedule allows you to pay a sum upfront, and then make additional payments as certain milestones or dates are met.
Your LegalShield provider law firm can help review your contractor agreement. Call your provider law firm before you sign a contract or if you have any questions.